Jason O'Mara Talks Terra Nova's Big (Yet Small) Surprise, Much Dino Action, and a Major Death

Fox’s Terra Nova roars into existence this Monday at 8/7c, with a two-hour premiere that introduces viewers to Jim Shannon (Life on MarsJason O’Mara), a former cop who travels with his wife (Shelley Conn) and kids from a bleak, dying circa-2149 Earth to the planet’s prehistoric past, as a ways of giving humanity a “second chance.” The Shannons’ journey gets off to a bumpy start, to say the least, but settles down some as they settle into the Terra Nova colony, which is overseen by Commander Taylor (Avatar‘s Stephen Lang) and occasionally intruded upon by a “rebel” element as well as very rebellious dinosaurs.

TVLine spoke with O’Mara about this trip in time that has been long in the making for Fox.

TVLINE | You shot the very first scenes for Terra Nova back in November of 2010, and you wrap production this October 7. What has been the most pleasantly surprising aspect of it all?
Probably how good this little actress Alana Mansour, who plays my daughter Zoe, has become. It has not surprised me because I knew she had potential, but it’s been a pleasant experience watching someone so young grow into the role as well as the process of creating a character and playing a scene. I’ve tried to encourage her to be prepared but also in the moment be willing to just forget all that and be present.

TVLINE | Yes, you two have some nice emotional touchstones in the pilot, in that Zoe doesn’t really know her father.
Exactly, yeah, and that relationship between Jim and Zoe has continued to blossom in the first season. We have plenty of scenes together and she’s so emotionally present in every scene, I’ve really, really enjoyed that. People tell you not to work with children and animals and I chose to work with a 7-year-old and several dinosaurs!

TVLINE | And what about the experience must you admit you weren’t quite prepared for?
Probably the geographical aspect and time difference, which is really hard. When I wake up to go to work, even if it’s like 6 am, I’ll have like 20 emails, several missed calls, texts… because by that point it’s already been a full day in the U.S. and people have tried to be in contact with me. And I only have a few hours to return all those messages before it’s nighttime in the States. Also, Monday in Australia is Sunday in the States, so we can’t really get a hold of anybody, and we basically work Saturdays because those are Fridays in the States. And every time I fly out for publicity, for the Emmys, the TCAs… it’s a challenge getting on and off plans for 15 hours at a time.

Is Steven Spielberg’s Terra Nova a Blast, From the Past? Our Fall TV First Impression

TVLINE | What are you finding to be people’s preconceptions about Terra Nova, and what is the reality?
That’s a really good question, because obviously I’ve been hearing a lot of people say, “It’s Lost meets Jurassic Park meets Avatar meets Land of the Lost!” – they’re desperate to put it in a box, and while there are aspects of all those things, it’s pretty unique and original as far as I see it. The other thing is that people are also very quick to dismiss the timeline aspects of it, saying that the Butterfly Effect would mean that none of this is possible. Or, “There’s an asteroid coming in 20 million years, how are you planning to deal with that?” “Why would you colonize the past? That’s a stupid idea.” There are these people who have contempt prior to seeing it, and it’s like, “Relax, guys. The people writing this show are really smart and they’ve considered all of this stuff. Just sit back and enjoy the show.”

TVLINE | My take on the whole asteroid argument is, “Um, that’s in 20 million years.”
Exactly. And we’ve only been on the planet for a million years? And only semi-civilized for about 10,000 years? That kind of puts things in perspective.

TVLINE | That said, people do like their giant mechanical lizards, and the back end of the pilot has this super-intense, Jurassic Park-caliber attack sequence. Are there moments comparable to that in subsequent weeks?
Every week there is some dinosaur encounter or another, depending on what the story calls for. Dinosaurs on Terra Nova tend to interfere with our day-to-day business as opposed to be the cause of it. There’s always some human dynamic that is creating a problem, not always a dinosaur. However, they do cause problems in that a lot of them are hungry, and we’re walking refrigerators to them. Not every episode is going to play out like an action movie, as the second half of the premiere does, but there’s lots of dinosaur action coming up, there are fatalities, and even one member of the regular cast doesn’t make it past the first season. There are lots of twist and turns and action in store. And the “Slashers” [seen in the premiere] do make a return appearance, so watch for that.

TVLINE | What was your reaction when you first saw a good cut of some early effects?
Last spring I went into the L.A. studio where the writers are and they showed me a cut of the opening sequence, and I found it emotional and riveting and moving and exciting, but what I was most happy about is that it had that Steven Spielberg look and feel to it. That even though we were dealing with science fiction and time travel, it felt like an all-inclusive experience, like E.T. or Close Encounters of the Third Kind. [Spielberg is an executive producer on Terra Nova.] It doesn’t feel like genre television, it just feels like a really good story.

Why Terra Nova Squashed Some Tension In Exchange for a ‘More Emotional’ Pilot

TVLINE | Jim’s wife doesn’t seem too thrilled when he in essence becomes a cop again at Terra Nova. Was his profession at the root of the hinted-at, long-standing marital tension that was cut from the original pilot?
I don’t think she is thrilled, honestly, and politically they’re probably on opposing ends of the spectrum. She is concerned for Jim’s well being, they do have a second chance and they don’t want to make the same mistakes. However, being a cop is one of the only things that he’s good at and he wants to make the most of this new place. There’s an episode where we deal with the first murder in Terra Nova and how [Commander] Taylor reacts to that, and Jim toes the party line when it comes to trial and retribution and how that’s addressed by essentially an autocrat. Elizabeth then takes offense and has an opposing view…. Husbands and wives argue over a wide range of things, and that was something we wanted to use in the show.

TVLINE | If the show gets picked up for Season 2, does the whole shebang move from beautiful, lush Queensland to a lot on Burbank?
[Laughs] Oh, who knows…. Obviously we have this amazing set in Australia that we can expand on, but there are things to consider like exchange rates, production budgets and deadlines….. things that are beyond me. I don’t know where were going to end up for Season 2; let’s just hope and pray that we get one!

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50 Comments
  1. Dessy says:

    Cannot. wait.

  2. scooterbeanbag says:

    Can’t wait for the premiere. It feels like I’ve been waiting a year just to see this show.

  3. Lauren says:

    So excited. I love this actor from The Closer and Monarch of the Glen and I’m so happy he has a new show. Hoping for a great premiere!

  4. Dâmaris says:

    OK, it’s been forever since I’ve read something about Terra Nova, so please, bear with me. Am I delusional or was Matthew Fox at any point attached to the show? When I read this article’s title (before I actually read the interview) I was ecstatic to see that O’Mara was in it, and a little disappointed that he wasn’t the lead (in my mind it was Matthew). So right now I’m jumping up and down because he IS the lead! Yay! But now I’m scratching my head ’cause I have no idea why I had Matthew in my head all this time.

  5. Hillary says:

    Anybody know if this will replay on Hulu or downloadable on iTunes after tonight?

  6. MALLEN says:

    According to hulu’s website … Current season episodes of Terra Nova will be available free on Hulu.com and Fox.com 8 days after airing on TV.

  7. nyguy says:

    It’s “tows the line”, not ‘toes the line’.

  8. j says:

    No, toes the line is correct.

  9. xav says:

    I thought it was really good. Part ‘Primeval’, part ‘Stargate Atlantis’. The only problem I have with it is that the showrunner is Brannon Braga so the chances of the show staying decent are not very good. That man destroys good premises like other people breathe.

  10. TheRiffRaff says:

    TERRIBLE, TERRIBLE, TERRIBLE show!!! SOOOOO incredibly boring and lackluster and a waste of Fox money that could go to Fringe. The lead teen is just reincarnated Tyler from V, its Avatar with Sy-Fy channel original movie production and dinosaurs. I was so disappointed in this show. BUT, like V, I will stay tuned to see this train wreck pan out.

  11. Megan says:

    I didn’t get to see much of it thanks to the stupid digital converter box, but what I did see wasn’t that good in my opinion. I thought the acting, writing, and dialogue was bad, and the music didn’t seem to fit/was too much at times. The special effects were really, really good though (and that’s really the only reason I was watching in the first place).

  12. Lindsey says:

    It was kind of like Back to the Future meets Jurassic Park. Like someone else said, it also reminded me a bit of Primeval. I like it, but I don’t know if I’ll stick with it every week, but it was pretty cool and a good first episode. Hopefully it does well, there aren’t enough sci-fi-sh shows like this on regular primetime tv.

  13. RiseOfGotham says:

    [Months ago] I was beyond excited when I heard about ‘Terra Nova’ it sounded like a promising television series and the cast/crew was great. I followed them on Twitter I “liked” there Facebook page, visited the official website, I told people to watch the premiere and I enjoyed the viral marketing that went on.

    [Present Day] Well, there goes 2 hours of my life I will never get back, I wanted to like this show. But it was horrible, the cast was good but they all seemed to over-act for some reason and I know this is a tv series but the CG needs some work it’s almost as bad as those poorly made-for-tv Syfy films.

    I figured it would get better during the second hour of the 2 hour premiere but it didn’t, I say cancel this and re-launch in a few years when better/cheaper CG technology is available or just reboot this as a small mini-series.

  14. tahina says:

    Well I gave it a try…for first 30 minutes and gave it up. Not going to get hooked up on a show I know will not last long. Too predictable..Any sci-fi show leave it to another networks but not FOX. They know how to screw up good shows.

  15. kmac0505 says:

    What was the major death that was referenced in the title of this column?

    • hawk_941 says:

      O’Mara mentions that “there are fatalities, and even one member of the regular cast doesn’t make it past the first season.”

  16. Marie says:

    I don’t know why, but I found the dinosaurs looking less real than they did in Jurassic Park in 93, even though I know that special effects are way better today. I guess I was also hoping for a T-rex.. maybe later. I think it was a good pilot, but I wasn’t hooked. I’ll give it a few weeks but I don’t know if I’ll stick around.

    • Lauren says:

      How can you compare a bazillions dollar movie to a weekly tv show?

      • Marie says:

        Hehehe because we’re almost 20 years later, they put almost 20 millions on the pilot and they supposedly worked on the special effects almost a year. And I thought they were crappy. I was expecting more of it. ;)

      • Marie says:

        Oh and also, because every time I heard people and media talking about the show, I heard the words “Jurassic Park”, “Lost” or “Avatar” attached to it hehehe

  17. Renee says:

    I liked it.

  18. Dave says:

    this show was like avatar had a baby with jurrassic park and that baby mated with a sy fy movie and created this crap. Bad acting, bad character exposition, bad direction, and terrible dialouge. If you like big sets and cg dinos worse then jurrassic park then this is the show for you. No quality in it at all. I dont think I’ll be checking back in.

  19. ceebee says:

    I’m not quite sure to count myself as a “regular” viewer. The 1st hour was TERRIBLE with the clunkly dialogue and the ridiculous gaps in the story….the last 20 minutes of action in the 2nd hour was better…but the dialogue in this show is BAD (and not in a good way of being “campy” bad)….I may give it one more chance – but I agree with the Post above – FOX should pump more $$ into Fringe – a classy show with a much BETTER writing and cast!!

  20. s. says:

    You know, this show reminds me more of Earth 2 than anything else. Yes, I was frankly surprised that they had to use a green screen for some of the shots if they are on location in Queensland Australia. I mean they could go to the old Lost set and get the exact same look without the campy effects, and probably save a lot of money!
    I am also surprised that a show from the 90’s like Earth 2 seemed to me to be more realistic but again I think it is because they used more actual outdoor shots instead of green screens.
    Fake or “real” dinos…well that much I don’t care about because honestly know one knows what they looked like in the first place. So I am not going to judge too much. It is a TV show after all.
    But lastly, I agree that some of the dialog seems over done. Why would a son be upset at a father trying to protect his younger sister? Why would a cop hit another Cop if it were just a fine? Why was he trying to take the child if it were just a fine? I think they left us with a lot of gaps…

  21. Mel says:

    I loved the show – couldn’t believe how fast the two hours went! I don’t understand complaints about CGI or storyline – it was the pilot (even The Closer’s pilot was a bit shaky) and the CGI had me yelling at the tv! C’mon, whatever happened to “suspension of reality”??? And why not just chill out and *enjoy entertainment*? Two enthusiastic thumbs up! I’m def scheduling my monday nights around #TerraNova!!!!

  22. Mel says:

    I’m glad you watched it, even if only for the special effects….. I hope you keep watching, too many good shows don’t get renewed because not “enough” people watch them…. Thx!!!!

  23. LeesburgFan says:

    It was one of the better pilots of the year and we really liked it, however they need to do away with the kids/teens in danger angle, that sucked. Plus the son, Josh. . .well, we referred to him as TYLER the whole time (after the hurl-worthy son on V, who finally got killed off, too late for cancellation). Stick to the mystery, adventure, and keep the characters interesting, but no more teen angst!

  24. Mel says:

    Well, if you don’t think there are enough shows like this on TV, then *please*, keep watching!!!!

  25. Wendifly says:

    I almost didn’t watch this show. I had very low expectations of it being cheesy and dumb, so much so I even missed the first 20 minutes of the show. WOW, was a pleasantly surprised when I tuned in and got hooked!!!!! I loved what I saw. Granted, some of the scenes and story lines were less than realistic, but that didn’t distract from my personal level of enjoyment in the show. Thanks FOX for coming up with an interesting sci-fi show. I haven’t been interested in a show like this since LOST. Please keep up the good work and DON’T CANCEL IT!

  26. Mel says:

    Yeah!!!!! It rocked!!!

  27. Mel says:

    I agree! It was awesome! (Did you see the portal scene???) And I also agree – FOX – PLEASE RENEW for season 2!!!!

  28. Mel says:

    I know! I was so psyched about the show too – and I loved it!

  29. Mel says:

    I know, JO’M was excellent on The Closer, but then again he’s great in whatever he does :-)

  30. Mel says:

    @ johnT – agreed – as long as they keep watching……

  31. Mel says:

    …..Its a TV show, not a movie or mini-series…… Excellent CGI for a weekly TV show……

  32. Astaran says:

    When I first heard about this show, I thought of the story arc in the old Sliders series, where settlers from a soon-to-be-extinct parallel Earth slide to another world to start again. That new world was, yes, you guessed it…DINOworld. Personally, I thought that would make a cool premise for a series. Seems I wasn’t too far off the mark 20 years ago! :)

    Terra Nova’s opening show looks to be the beginning of a great series. I like the fact that it’s centered on a family, yet has many avenues to explore; action, drama, all of it. Now the question is: is this the Earth of a parallel universe (as the story alluded to), is this truly Earth’s past or is it another world entirely (ala Stargate or Earth2)…we’ll have to wait and see. :)

  33. Angela says:

    Loved watching Terra Nova and cant wait until next monday so i can watch it again :) absolutely loved it.. the storyline is amazing and looking forward to seeing what the equations mean at the falls and the “missing son” coming into play.. really excited about this…. Keep doing an excellent job!!

  34. Mel says:

    The best way to get/keep FoX to invest/keep investing is for *people to watch*…. If you just drop out & don’t watch its guaranteed to be canceled…. But if you watch, then, they renew….. If you don’t watch, you can’t complain……

  35. Mel says:

    ….. Best way to fill in gaps? Keep watching! :-)

  36. Mel says:

    …..One of the major characters dies by the end of the season….. Stay tuned! :-)

  37. Mel says:

    Well, I know that Steven Speilberg being attached to a project may highten expectations – along with an Avatar actor – but for a weekly TV show I thought the CGI was really good! TV series dont have the same budgets as movies….. Perhaps lightening up and enjoy? :-)

  38. Mel says:

    …..Ouch! Well, I hope you give it a couple of more weeks….. Give the show a fighting chance…..

  39. Mel says:

    Me too! :-)

  40. angela says:

    wonder who will die.. my prediction.. commander taylor

  41. Mel says:

    I hope you do give it another or couple of tries…..

    :-)

  42. Mithrin says:

    It’s not likely you’ll be seeing a T-Rex in this show. They weren’t around in the Cretaceous Period.

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